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Gers can still be a knockout after their 10-man heroics

Rangers 0 Villarreal 0

Brick wall: Villarreal’s Karl Toko Ekambi is denied by Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor
Brick wall: Villarreal’s Karl Toko Ekambi is denied by Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor

By Andy Newport

Rangers remain in the hunt for the Europa League knockout stages after Steven Gerrard's side survived 45 minutes with 10 men to claim what could yet be a crucial point from Villarreal.

A controversial red card for Daniel Candeias just before half-time left Gers up against it but, for the second time in this campaign, the Light Blues frustrated the Yellow Submarine as they battled to a merited 0-0 draw at Ibrox.

And it leaves their destiny firmly in their own hands - with victory against Rapid Vienna in Austria in two weeks' time guaranteeing passage to the last 32.

Rangers, roared on by a pumped-up capacity crowd, chased after the Yellow Submarine with a wild hunger, forcing their opponents into mistakes.

Yet the hosts were also guilty of leaving too much space for the visitors and the result was a compelling end-to-end contest.

The first opening broke at Scott Arfield's feet but he could only stab the ball straight at Andres Fernandez.

Villarreal's Karl Toko Ekambi then burst into the box but Carlos Bacca could not provide the killer touch as the Cameroon international fired across goal.

Alfredo Morelos saw a neat flick at the near-post bounce over before Bacca gave Joe Worrall the slip with a dip of the shoulder but, from the cut-back, Ekambi made a mess of his finish.

Rangers should have struck on the half-hour mark as Arfield clipped a cross to the back post but Connor Goldson blazed over from Worrall's knock down.

The Ibrox side had to be bailed out by two incredible saves from Allan McGregor as he twice stood up to deny Ekambi one-on-one.

But on the stroke of half-time came the moment of drama. Candeias - already on a booking after bringing down Jaume Costa - raced to chase down Santiago Caseres alongside James Tavernier and Morelos.

All four ended up in a heap and, as Caseres rolled around theatrically, Slovenian referee Matej Jug decided the Portuguese winger was to blame and flashed a second yellow - although he had to be reminded by the visitors that a red was required.

McGregor was required again just after the restart as he pushed away a Mario Gaspar drive, while Glenn Middleton, pushed through the middle to partner Morelos by Gerrard, fired over as Rangers refused to let their heads sink.

Javier Calleja's frustration with his side's lack of cutting edge saw him introduce Santi Cazorla on 62 minutes, but even the former Arsenal man could not find a way past Gers' stubborn resistance.

It was Rangers who were cheering with 14 minutes left as Middleton prodded home from a Tavernier cross - but the celebrations were quickly hushed as his strike was ruled out for offside after the linesman raised his flag.

Kyle Lafferty then replaced Morelos and turned the decibel levels up again with a rasping drive that Fernandez had to push over.

Gerrard screamed at his men to continue pressing as the game moved into the final 10 minutes as they responded by bravely putting their bodies on the line.

McGregor denied Samu Chukwueze with another fine stop, while Ramiro Funes Mori wasted a great chance at the death to snatch the win for the visitors.

RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan, Coulibaly (McCrorie, 90 mins), Jack, Candeias, Arfield, Middleton, Morelos (Lafferty, 79 mins). Not used: Ejaria, Foderingham, Halliday, Grezda, McAuley.

VILLARREAL: Fernandez, Gaspar, Gonzalez, Funes Mori, Costa, Caseres, Morlanes, Trigueros Munoz (Cazorla, 62 mins), Fornals (Chukwueze, 74 mins), Toko Ekambi, Bacca (Moreno, 63 mins). Not used: Asenjo, Sansone, Pedraza, Bonera.

Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia)

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